Empty nest syndrome

Published by Emma Lee-Potter in on Tuesday 11th September 2012

There’s an autumn chill in the air, the garden is covered in leaves and the traffic in Oxford has resumed its usual snail-like crawl.

But this September feels very different for me. Why? Because for the first time in 16 years I haven’t got a child going back to school. I haven’t had to rush round frantically buying new shoes, files and geometry sets or doing the annual (always unsuccessful) hunt for my son’s rugby gum shield.

At the moment my children are both still at home but by the end of the week they won’t be. My daughter’s off to university in Paris while my son’s heading west to Wales (with his beloved road bike, of course).

I’m so excited for them but every now and again I find myself asking plaintively “where on earth did the last 20 years go?” It seems no time at all since my daughter, clad in a yellow flower-sprigged pinafore and matching hairband, clung to me as I took her into nursery school for the first time. And since my son was a toddler with white-blond curls and a penchant for Thomas the Tank Engine.

Now my daughter’s moving to another country for a year and my son’s excitedly looking forward to Freshers’ Week. The house is full of packing boxes, my son’s busy practising his cooking skills and my daughter’s rushing round seeing all her friends before she starts her new Parisian life.

It’s going to be very quiet around here in a week’s time…

18 comments so far

  • I was bereft when my youngest left ten days ago. I was thrilled and delighted for her, and for the world to have the pleasure of her, but bereft none-the-less, and I remain bereft. I did not know I would feel quite like this. I was not prepared for it, and I have no idea if it will ever go away.

    I know that you will experience something similar to what I have gone through emptying my nest and I feel for you. Breathe deeply and enjoy the bursts of happy, funny nostalgia that punctuate the tears.

  • Oh Nicola, I feel exactly the same – thrilled and delighted, but preparing to be bereft. It’s going to be a very odd time, but it’s brilliant that they’ve got such an exciting time ahead. Also, it helps a lot to know that loads of other parents are feeling exactly the same emotions.

  • Yikes, I dread the day this will happen in our household! It’s not for a few years yet as daughter (the youngest) has just started high school, but I know how fast the time goes, so am preparing myself.

    Mind you, there are advantages to not having to tell people to tidy their rooms and do their homework…

  • Hi Henriette. Thanks very much for commenting. I hope your daughter is loving her new school. It doesn’t seem any time at all since my two were at that stage and suddenly they’re off to start new, exciting lives!

  • Ed is only 11 (going on 15), but I can’t believe how quick the years are passing. In France he will probably start boarding for Lycée just before his 15th birthday which now seems very close! At least he will be home every weekend. Hope you find something fun and exciting for you to keep you out of trouble when they are gone. You can look forward to Paris weekends away though!

  • Just found this post on Tots 100’s top 50 posts of the year. It brought a tear to my eye! My eldest has just started secondary and I can’t believe how fast time has gone. This will be me before I know it!

  • Thank you so much, Sarah. I felt very honoured to be included in Tots 100’s top 50 posts and really glad you liked the post. I hope your eldest is enjoying secondary. The time does fly by!

  • Oh gosh, I do hope they came home for Christmas and reminded you why you like peace and quiet! I’m dreading this when the time comes (my sister-in-law was so upset that she went off to the Mercy Ships for a month by way of distraction)!
    We’re just at the point where they don’t believe in Santa any more, and that is enough to send me into tears!

  • Thanks so much for commenting, Actually Mummy. I hope you had a lovely Christmas, despite their Santa doubts! And hurrah, yes they both came home for Christmas. And they’re here till next week – double hurrah!

  • The next stage…they get their degree and come home for a while cos they cant afford student debts and rent. Then they breed and come back with grandchildren in tow when their relationships fall apart, or other things happen in their life and they need to come home while they deal with them. Once a parent, always a parent.
    It has its nice side though, it is lovely just to have you to think about, no school times/terms to tie you down. Nobody demanding food or clean clothes, nobody making a mess or needing thought about. But it hits you harder once you have had the peace and quiet for a few years and then one of them comes back – in my case a 28 yr old.

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